Members of the Universal Life Church
Membership in the Universal Life Church is about more than performing weddings – although officiating can be considered a spiritual act in its own right, says guest writer Mark DeFillo.

The following guest sermon was submitted by Rev. Mark DeFillo. All ULC ministers are invited to contribute their own sermons for consideration/publication. To submit a sermon, please email it to sermons@themonastery.org.


I find myself thinking about ways that ministers could support this church, and indeed similar churches with the same or similar ideals and methods, in the face of disdain and/or official non-recognition from certain quarters.

The primary reason for such feelings from others is the ease of entering, and being ordained in, this kind of ministry to which we belong; coupled with the fact that many religions and sects only confer ordination upon candidates who have completed lengthy educations in religious schools. For some, the problem is that many join for the sole purpose of being able to officiate at legally-recognized weddings, and sometimes a single one.

Now, anyone who has joined presumably sees this arrangement for opening ordination to all who are called to claim it as a good and sacred thing. I would suggest that it would be beneficial for our church if as many ministers as possible express and explain their belief in this type of ordination, and in the church fellowship we join by accepting this ordination. I shall do so in this writing, and I hope that others may feel called and inspired to write out their own thoughts and reasoning.

This church, the Universal Life Church Ministries, rests upon a handful of basic defining principles that unite us. And naturally, upon these same principles rest the characteristic traits and practices that empower so many to take up ministry – even in cases where the sole ministerial function is presiding over marriages. Let us consider them.

Performing Marriages as a ULC Officiant

Marriage is a way of creating or adjusting a family by the special union of two people, in a way firmly supported by and part of the larger society, and in many religions with the blessing of the Divine. Our ministers may be understood to serve the Universe and its children in many ways, including this matter of representing the Universe in accepting and solemnizing the newly formed familial bond of matrimony. As such, this form of ministry is in itself a sacred calling. If some of us are called to do only that, there is no call or justification for others to deny the legitimacy of it as ministry.

What Does It Mean to Be a ULC Minister?

First and foremost: “We Are All Children of the Same Universe.” What does it mean to minister under this message? At its most basic, the word “minister”, used as a verb, means to serve. Accepting the ministry means to choose to serve the children of the Universe. Being the message of a “church”, for most of us, the “Universe” is sacred and divine. In this interpretation, the Universe is a manifestation of the Divine, or vice versa. 

Another basic principle is that we are enjoined to “Do that which is right.” This of course requires conscience, self-awareness, and sincerity. All the more so since the Church does not impose a lawbook upon us. That fact, in turn, is very significant for establishing that our ordination is legitimate despite not requiring the lengthy education of the clergy of many other churches and religions. In many cases, a major part of that education is comprised of learning the religious law of that group to the level of being qualified to serve as a judge on a religious court. The other major area of study would be matters of theology and perhaps philosophy. ULC does not impose any theology beyond the “children of the Universe” doctrine, and ordains people of all beliefs. Therefore it is up to ourselves to determine and arrange our own education to improve our ministries.

Supporting Freedom of Religion

Finally, we may note as the third principle the commitment to freedom of religion under the U.S. Constitution and International Human Rights Law. That’s a good reason for those of us who are so-called, to speak (or write) in support of those who join the ministry only for the power to officiate weddings. Our words will help support the fact that offering the ministry so easily is itself an important practice of this church that rests upon its core teachings.

In this way, our ministry does not require the extensive education of many others, because it neither imposes a theological system that must mastered, nor has a law code and judicial system in need of judges. It is, however, a sacred calling to service of the Universe and its children, and it is a matter of our religious freedom to be able to accept and carry out this calling the ministry under the banner of the Universal Life Church Ministries.

15 comments

  1. Tom says:

    I agree with the sermon…probably a better word than “religion” would be “spirituality”, which seems to me to be more inclusive, since we are all children of the same (only) universe, in which we are all united…Peace…
    Tom

    1. ET says:

      As a child of the universe I accept that mine is not the only path, but one of many. I accept that others have belief systems different than my own and accept that fact and accept them. No one knows for sure. Unicorns may have existed somewhere in space and time. I accept that only the present exist for me.

  2. The Rev. Brother Robert Barker says:

    My original path to ordination and pastoral ministry was through the more “accepted” manner of eight years of training, a four year Bachelor degree and a four year Master of Divinity degree through a conservative Lutheran church body, the Missouri Synod, which led to ordination. I served thirty years in the capacity of a pastor over three congregations. My training was basically learning doctrine and how to teach it and preach it and support it with appropriate biblical verses. Questioning doctrine and practice was not encouraged and those who did were looked upon with great suspicion and if they did not “repent” of their doubt could be sanctioned and eventually forced from their ministry being declared unfit and having violated their ordination vow.

    After my first five years in this Lutheran ministry I gradually began to question the doctrine and practice that I had been taught. This slowly grew and grew within me and I began to covertly push the envelope in my pastoral practice.

    What further complicated my situation was that I was pastor in a church closet, being a gay man fighting against my natural sexual orientation. Eventually I challenged my congregation on their homophobic views. That led to my eventually being suspected of being gay and asked to resign my pastorate which I did. Even though I had issues with the church to be asked to leave after thirty years caused an emotional trauma in my life that I had to work through. Fortunately I was able to leave with my full pension since I was vested and it could not be taken from me. I am now fully retired drawing my pension and Social Security.

    After leaving the LC-MS I came to terms with my gay sexual orientation and been partnered since. Also I continue to study liberal and progressive theological and biblical views, casting off entirely the conservative-fundamentalist dogma I had been indoctrinated with and had one time embraced. I also began to see myself as “Spiritual and Not Religious.”

    I no longer see myself as a Christian in the sense of the so-called orthodoxy of the Christian belief system. I do not believe in sin and salvation, a devil, demons, or hell, salvation by the blood of Jesus, the bible as the inerrent or infallible word of the biblical god.

    I am currently studying in depth the metaphysical approach to spirituality to give meaning and significance to my understanding of spirituality.

    I have become a Universal Life Church minister and also a minister in the Spiritual Humanist Church. I did not seek ordination just to be able to perform weddings for I was the officiant at more marriages than I can remember, although if asked I would do so. To me ministry is more than just being able to officiate at a marriage. Being a minister or pastor means being able to help people who seek to deepen their own sense of spirituality which is how I want to use my spiritual learning and ordination. I also use my ordination to advocate for justice for all peoples regardless of race, creed, religion, sexual orientation, or physical characteristics for we are All Children of the Same Universe.

    1. Carl Elfstrom says:

      Welcome to the ULC, Rev.Barker. You’re my kind of minister. Blessed be !

    2. ET says:

      You have learned through education and experiences what does and does not work best for you. Best wishes as you follow your chosen path.

  3. Lori says:

    Nicely said Tom and ET. I am also a child of the universe and accept others and there belief systems. I liked the sermon and I really like what ULC stands for. My only wish is that others, who become ministers here, recognize that this is an open and accepting ministry. It is very sad when a person becomes so overpowered by their own beliefs that they cannot, or will not, see the bigger picture. For this world to evolve into a peaceful place, acceptance and tolerance is necessary. Be at peace with your own beliefs, if they strive to make this world a better place, and allow me the respect to be at peace with mine. Bright blessings

    1. ET says:

      Amen, Lori! Well spoken.

  4. The Rev. Brother Robert Barker says:

    Where is my comment?

  5. Larry R D Makinson says:

    Beautiful, I thank you kindly for sharing this, very well said. May peace be with all.

  6. The Rev. Brother Robert Barker says:

    Again: Where is MY Comment, Mr. Moderator!???

    1. Carl Elfstrom says:

      They moderate all of my comments, post what they like, and delete the rest. This isn’t a free for all. If it doesn’t sound right to the good staff of ULC it won’t be posted. Its part of my ministry to become more patient and tolerant of others, and this blog is a great place to learn and practice such spiritual traits. Most of my ministering is done by sharing my experience, strength, and hope on this blog. When something I say helps I’ve done a good job of ministering. I’ve never officiated a wedding or other ceremony, and havent felt called to do that yet. However, when the time is right I’m sure I’ll get a premonition. I’m very intuitive. I’m cool with whatever people believe in. There aren’t any spiritual laws set in stone (figuratively speaking) that everyone must. We must follow our own paths to happy destiny. What works for some doesn’t work for others.

  7. Carl Elfstrom says:

    Another lesson in patience and tolerance of others. Thankyou.

  8. Carl Elfstrom says:

    This sure beats going to A.A. meetings. I preached for more than thirty years in those, without monetary compensation, and the spiritual rewards weren’t all that great either, but can at least say that attending all those thousands of A.A. and later N.A. meetings, starting when I was twenty, definitely immensely helped prepare me for my ministry, which is usually engaged in when alone, at home, in solitude, on this blog, using my android phone. Thankyou.

  9. Carl Elfstrom says:

    P.S. I’ve also completed year long vocational correspondence courses to be a substance abuse counselor, natural health consultant, and nursing assistant, as well as other couses, so I know a thing or two about helping people. I might take more of those courses. It’s a great way for a 55 year old on Social Security Disability to kill time, and they don’t cost much either. A motorcycle, pavement, the front end of a car, and four and a third months in the hospital put me on Disability when I was twenty six.

    1. ET says:

      You are to be commended for making the best of your tragic circumstances by gaining the knowledge to help others. Best wishes for continuing your journey through life helping others.

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